There are many leadership lessons to be learnt from Brexit particularly from the behaviour of politicians on both sides of the camp. The one that sticks out for me concerns the quality of relationship our leaders have with us, their people. David Cameron, possibly a good PM depending upon your viewpoint, had no clue to how people on the street felt running up to the referendum (well maybe he does now). Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage on the other hand where out there knocking doors, walking the streets and drinking in the pubs talking with ordinary people while Cameron was nowhere to be seen. This leadership flaw isn’t limited to politicians of course. I am still constantly amazed when leaders tell me that they know very little about their people. Some have no clue about the lives, the wants, the needs, the fears of the people they share a significant amount of time with each day, often more time than with their own families. How connected do we feel to those bosses that we believe know nothing about us? On the other hand, when our boss takes a genuine interest in us we feel a level of connection that otherwise would not exist. Leadership insight - know your people if you want your people to follow you.
When was the last time you had a meaningful conversation with the important people in your life? These people could be your partner, your children, your team in the office, your boss anyone who you deem to be important. When I ask this question on courses, I notice the same reaction … the realisation that it was probably a long time ago. We live in at a fantastic age as far as technology is concerned. We are able to communicate with each other in so many different ways, ways that belonged to the realms of science fiction only a few short years ago. But, with tools such as smart phones and laptop computers we have less face to face conversations and this I believe is at the root of our relationship problems.
According to a UK Economic and Social Research Council report, in 2008 one in 4 people claimed they were unhappy with their partners. In 1987, this figure was one in 30. Equally alarming is the fact that 60% of all marriages today will end in divorce, the median duration of a marriage being only 7.2 years. These are worrying statistics and ones that are likely to get worse before they get better so the question is what is going wrong?
A colleague of mine once said, “At the root of any failed or broken relationship is a conversation that never took place!” I can vouch for this as the reason my first marriage came to an end was because I was busy working hard, pursuing my career with the intent of providing the best I could for my family while my ex wife was busy looking after our home and raising our kids. This was fine and noble to a degree; the only thing we forgot was to engage in meaningful and purposeful conversations. Eventually, when we did have the conversation we should have had several years before, it was too late, the damage had been done.
During these demanding and stressful times, it would be wise to keep a check on our important relationships. We should ensure that we do make time to have meaningful conversations with our partners, our children, our parents, our colleagues, etc. This will mean finding the time, however, time invested now will drastically reduce the chances of those relationships failing in the future.
There are some people who feel that she was not a good leader. However, I think those who have this view of her mistake her capability with her policies and actions. Of course she was a good leader. A leader by definition requires followers and for a Prime Minister to win 3 general elections, never to lose one and be more popular on the third than the first, she had many followers.
I, like many in this country, have become dismayed with UK governments pretty much since Margaret Thatcher left office on November 28th, 1990. Before and after her time as PM, we’ve had Prime Ministers who were, by comparison to Mrs T, weak. I am sure that many politicians goal is to become Prime Minister but Margaret Thatcher’s goal was not to become PM, but what she could achieve for the country as PM.
Regardless of the opinion on whether or not she did good or bad for the country, the truth is she was human and humans sometimes get things wrong. However, there is a difference between getting things wrong following ones ego and getting things wrong following ones conscience. Let’s face it, the country was in a hell of a mess before Thatcher came to power. Although only a young lad at the time, I recall the 3 day working weeks, the electricity black outs, rubbish piling up on the streets, the country was in a real mess. I also recall the power the Trade Unions held not just over Governments but over the country. Some blame Thatcher for destroying industry yet the truth is, we had pretty much destroyed it ourselves by poor workmanship and demands for ever-increasing wages. Just recall the UK motor industry of the 70’s, most of the cars produced in this country were of very poor standard which allowed Japanese and German motor cars to become more popular simply because they didn’t break down.
During the days since her death, she has been described as the greatest PM since Winston Churchill. Well I don’t know if that is true but one thing I do know is that Churchill saved us from a foreign enemy; Mrs T saved us from ourselves.
In my book, Margaret Thatcher was every inch a good leader, in fact a very good leader, the sort that we need again now!
What better time to take a little time to consider a pretty important question … what do I want from my work, my life?
I have been leading and facilitating the Oxford Leadership Academy’s excellent ‘Self Managing Leadership’ Course for the past 6 years and I’m always delighted at the excellent feedback (see testimonials) it receives.
The course is a very powerful Leadership development programme designed for senior managers/leaders who wish to improve their Leadership skills. When considering that the success of an organisation is hugely dependant upon the actions of it’s leaders, then this is a perfect time to take this programme.
Well, sorry to disappoint but there are no secrets! However, there are certain rules that if followed carefully, will increase the odds of success. This blog explores them.
I believe that achievement, in this case achieving the goals we set for ourselves, is a natural human motivator. We feel good when we achieve those things we set out for and not so good when we fail. Worse still in my opinion, is not even beginning what we once were determined to do. However, when planned carefully, success is much more likely to follow.
The 7 stages of achievement:
Decide upon exactly what it is you want. Many people never achieve success or happiness because they don’t know exactly what it is they want, in other words, what will bring them success and happiness. These are life’s drifters; they drift from one thing to another never really achieving what matters to them. So, if it is a business you want then decide exactly what sort of business that is. If it is a new career that you want then be absolutely clear on the sort of career you want. Spending time deciding upon exactly what it is you want down to the smallest detail is an essential first step.
Do the necessary research. We all know that what might appear to be a great idea may not be one after some careful research. Far too many people make the mistake of rushing headlong into a project only to decide later on that it was the wrong thing to do or it was not actually what they wanted. Of course there is always a risk that things may not work out even after the most careful research but work in this area early on can prevent costly mistakes in the future.
Create a plan. Before any decision is made a comprehensive action plan should be created. The plan should identify exactly what has to happen and by when. It should include all the resources you’ll need, i.e. money, time, the people who’ll be able to help you, etc.
Make the decision. Once you have decided exactly what it is you want and you have researched the subject in depth and you have created a plan of execution then if it is still something you want to do then make the decision to do it. Many people pull back at this stage because doubt or fear creeps in.
Execute your plan. Many people have great ideas. Many are capable of carefully researching the viability of an idea, etc., and many people are capable of creating an action plan yet few people are good at executing their plans. How many times have you been absolutely determined to do something only never actually getting round to starting it? If you’ve got to this stage then begin!
Have a contingency plan. As there are rarely guarantees to success, it is sensible to have a contingency plan to hand should things not turn out as planned. Many people make the mistake of starting a project only to find that things don’t work out as planned and then become stuck because they have no plan B.
Remain positive and optimistic. Achieving a goal, especially a big goal, is likely to have its challenging moments. During these times, it is natural to wonder why the hell you took the decision to do it in the first place. However, if all things were easy to achieve then we’d all be doing them. During difficult times, it is essential to remain positive (I can do this) and enthusiastic (the reason you began it in the first place). I believe that more often than not, it is our attitude that defeats us and not our abilities.
With the New Year fast approaching, maybe now is the time to think about what it is you would like to achieve in 2012. Good luck.
With all of the apparent problems we face at this time, the simple pleasures of laughter and fun are probably low on the to do list of most people. Watch the TV news or read the newspapers and you’ll be promptly reminded of the continuing woes of the world, i.e. the volatile stock market, global warming, rising unemployment, the list goes on. Is it any wonder that stress and depression are on the increase with so much to worry about?
Yet, according to research, laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring the mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humour helps to lighten your burdens, it inspires hope, it connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert. With so much power to heal and renew, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is a tremendous resource for surmounting problems, enhancing your relationships, and supporting both physical and emotional health. According to psychologists, laughter strengthens the immune system, boosts energy levels, helps to diminish pain, and protects from the damaging effects of stress. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, easy to use and unlike antidepressants, it has absolutely no negative side effects.
Apparently laughter and humour helps to:
- Relax the physical body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving the muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after
- Boost the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving resistance to disease
- Trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain
- Protect the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems
So, it seems that having a good laugh from time to time will help to keep us healthy both in body and in mind and there are many ways in which to do it. For example, we can:
- Watch a funny movie or TV show
- Buy and play CD’s featuring your favourite comedians
- Go to a comedy club
- Spend time with people who make you laugh
- Buy a joke book and read a few pages each night (rather than watching the news)
- Make others laugh (maybe with your new jokes)
- Have a fun night with friends
- Play funny games with our children/grand children or even your partner
- Do something silly now and again
- Think about what is good in your life, what you might refer to as your blessings
Learning to take life less seriously. “Like good little children, don’t worry, be happy…” from the song by Bobby Ferrin
Sadly according to some research posted on the web site www.selfgrowth.com adults laugh on average 17 times a day which may seem a lot but when compared with children who laugh on average 400 times a day, the figure is pitifully low. Think for a moment about how well children deal with life and maybe there are some clues here. I personally believe that many of us can reduce and maybe even eliminate our stresses and frustrations by taking life and ourselves less seriously (as children do).
I am sure that many people have breathed their last breath relenting on the fact that they took their lives too seriously by worrying about things that they either could do nothing about or about events or experiences that did not actually happen. I read recently of a true story of a yoga student who asked the yoga master the question, “How can I live my life without stress?” The master replied, “Let go of your attachments and take life less seriously!” For me this was a powerful message as I believe that it is the attachment to processions and to outcomes that causes us to feel stress. That doesn’t mean not valuing our possessions or being indifferent to what is going on in the world but letting go of those things that we cannot control. Of course the situation in Europe is serious.
Of course watching our pension funds temporarily decline in value is worrying. Of course we may face the prospect of losing a job or indeed of having lost it already. But the question is, does worrying help? If it doesn’t then it’s perhaps best not to do it.
A friend asked me to put together my ideas for a presentation that he is to make to a group of college graduates on the theme of ‘leading a contented and successful life.’ This is it with some additions for older life students:
- Know that one day you’ll be old and life’s opportunities will have passed you by so don’t delay, plan now and do next.
- When you have created a plan, work it! Setting goals is the easy bit; executing your plan is more difficult. Execution is crucial.
- Know that you can make a positive contribution to the world, maybe even help make a better world. After all, if not you, who?
- Know your purpose in life … if you don’t know it now keep asking the question of yourself until you do. Purpose gives you a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
- Know your values and live by them. Being true to your values makes decision-making easier.
- Have passion for all that you do. Contribution without passion is feeble.
- Expect setbacks as no journey is ever without setbacks.
- When life knocks you down, pick yourself up, dust yourself down and get on with things.
- Expect opposition from those who have no ambition. The weak-minded and the jealous will always find the flaws in your plans in order to bring you down.
- Don’t complain. If something isn’t of your liking, offer alternatives and then do something else.
- Don’t wait on winning the lottery to make you rich because it is unlikely to happen, make good in the world and riches will follow.
- Develop a positive outlook. Positivity does not exclude reality but it does exclude pessimism.
- Be enthusiastic about life even when things get you down. Like a virus, enthusiasm is contagious and spreads the more you expose yourself to it.
- Expect success even though you won’t always achieve it.
- Do the work you enjoy, work that inspires you because doing the work that you enjoy is not like work at all.
- Always do the very best you can, in everything you do even if it is doing the menial tasks.
- Serve others in every way that you can. Good leaders do not take, they give.
- Respect other people for who they are, not necessarily for what they do. You can respect a person yet condemn behavior.
- Find what’s good in other people as it is far too easy to find what’s bad.
- Treat people how they like to be treated rather than how you like to be treated.
- Be aware of and enjoy the simple yet truly pleasurable things in life, walking through a forest, a beautiful sunset, an evening with a loved one.
- Believe in yourself because not everyone will.
- Love yourself because if you do not you will not be able to love others. You cannot give what you do not have.
- Work hard and the rewards will follow.
- Reward yourself for your successes. Reward creates motivation.
- Smile more often and you’ll not only feel happier, you’ll look better too.
- Laugh more often. Laughter strengthens the immune system, boosts energy, diminishes pain, and protects from the damaging effects of stress.
- Develop an open mind, one that considers all opinions before dismissing them, after all, man used to believe that the earth was flat.
- Be intentional in all you do. Intention has a power in it.
- Practice hard and long, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an ‘expert.’
- Make time for yourself, your family and your friends … being with those we love is good for the soul.
- Make time every day to sit in silence. The answers to our questions are not ‘out there’ but within.
- Look after yourself. Your body is strong but it does need to be nourished properly with wholesome food and rest.
- Love life. The world has so much to offer for those who can look beyond extravagant material needs.
- Be grateful for what life delivers to your door. A grateful heart is a contented heart.
- Do today what needs to be done today, only putting off the trivial.
- Pay someone a sincere compliment everyday … it costs nothing to make others feel good.
- Have good conversations with those who are important to you.
- Live every day as if it were your last because one day it will be!
- If something doesn’t work, do something different. If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got!
- If your life/your career/your relationships aren’t going in the direction you would like them to then do something NOW to get back on track!
- Enjoy every moment because you don’t get to live today again tomorrow.
Last week saw the passing of one of the world’s most brilliant innovators and change agents and that the loss will mean that we’ll never get to see what else this remarkable man would have created.
Steve Jobs was undeniably an extraordinary man by any standard. He has left his mark on no less than five industries. Yet this was a middle-class hippie kid with no college education who built a computer empire and became a multi-millionaire in a few years. Despite being fired from Apple in the 80’s, he returned a decade later to save it and turn it into one of the world’s most influential corporations, with millions of fans around the world.
I don’t know if Steve Jobs was a great leader in the true sense of the word or not, he certainly wasn’t a conventional leader. He wasn’t known for his consultative style, nor did he have a consensus building manner. Apparently he was known for his blunt delivery of criticism and he set very high expectations of his staff and those that didn’t live up to his expectations became labelled as ‘bozos.’ It has his arrogance, in fact that caused his downfall from Apple in 1985. However, there is no doubt that he was a visionary leader who changed the thinking and the buying habits of personal computer and digital music buyers worldwide.
He broke the paradigms in the digital animation world as well as the personal music market and many others. But for me, it was the speech he made at Stanford in March 2006 where he demonstrated at least an understanding of self leadership, being true to his quest to develop and be the best that he could. In the video, he offers some interesting advice to a crowded arena of new graduates at Stanford but the words that stand out most for me are these, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” These are bold words yet they hold a universal truth that we perhaps all know of but are too scared to pursue. How many of us have wanted to follow our hearts but have been too afraid to?
Steve Jobs will be remembered as a remarkable man, a man who challenged the status quo; a man who had an uncanny ability to see into the future and accurately predict the buying habits of people the world over. He was a man who did not think like most of us think, he thought differently!
Below is the video of the speech Steve gave at Stanford in 2006:
I have been working as a Coach now for many years. However, lately I have noted that a high proportion of my clients wish not only to work on developing existing skills or learning new ones, but on finding a way to deal with the constant and increasing demands that they face not just in their jobs but in their lives in general.
For many Executives, the global crisis has put even more pressure on them and their teams to perform. I find that many are now working longer and harder than ever before, the fanciful concept of ‘work life balance’ being dead and buried. Many of them complain of having a zero balance and that their relationships with their families are deteriorating as a result. Some are noticing that their health is declining, or that they are putting on weight mainly due to poor diets and rushed meals and of course, little or no exercise. If this continues, and I see no signs that it will change just yet, then organisations will face a new crisis in the future, this time the deterioration of the health and the performance of their key people. It is true that some people seem to thrive on pressure and that is OK maybe when young but constant mental pressure into middle age has long been proven to cause health problems further down the road.
Can coaching help deal with stress? The answer is in some cases a definite yes! However, let me make it clear that in severe cases, medical help may be required and can be beneficial it is always wise to seek professional help first. Besides a trained coach would recommend such a course should he or she feel that the client warranted it. However, in many cases, stress due to the burden of an overly large ‘to do list’ and the call of a 24/7 Blackberry can be tackled using coaching. For some of my more senior clients, being able to talk about their problems to someone completely detached from their everyday world can be of huge benefit. Usually the more senior the person is, the less people they have around them that they feel they can confide in. One CEO told me that he feels that he cannot talk with his boss about the high levels of stress he experiences as he would fear that it could be perceived as a weakness on his part. He does not want to speak with his firms OH department as a confession would go on his record. He cannot expect his wife, no matter how much she wants to help, to understand the complex problems he faces in his work. He even feels that he cannot talk with his mates as they would think that he is ‘cracking up!’ Therefore, the only impartial person left is his coach.
I find that when my clients express how they really feel, they often find some inner peace removed from the turmoil of everyday life. Once that state is achieved, they are more able to prioritise tasks by focusing on the few things that will make the biggest difference. This then brings a new energy and a clarity that simply cannot be achieved when feeling overwhelmed.
Get in touch if you would like to discuss anything relating to this blog post.
I used to read the newspapers every day, I would even look forward to switching on News at Ten at the end of the evening but not anymore. I am sick to the top teeth with all of the negative news that seems to dominate the media these days.
I know why the press do this because we all know that bad news sells but I just wonder what affect this constant bombardment of negativity has on society. I am a firm believer in the concept of ‘self fulfilling prophecy’ and if there is any truth to this piece of age old wisdom then we are simply making things a whole lot worse for ourselves. The following story explains very well my point:
“There was a man who lived on the side of the road. And he sold hot dogs. He was hard of hearing so he had no radio. He had trouble with his eyes so he read no newspapers nor did he watch the television. But he sold good hot dogs.
He put signs on the highway saying how good they were. He stood on the side of the road and cried out, “Want to buy a great hot dog mister?” And many people bought his hot dogs. He increased his meat and bun orders ten fold in order to keep up with the trade. He bought a bigger stove in order to cook the increasing number of hot dogs he was selling. Trade was good, very good indeed. So good in fact he got his son to help him each evening after he returned home from college. But then something happened.
His son said, “Father, haven’t you been reading the newspapers? The country is heading for a deep recession. In fact, the whole world is experiencing a financial meltdown of unprecedented proportions. Everything is going to pot!”
Thereupon the Father thought, ‘Well, my sons been to college and is very well educated. He reads the FT, listens to Robert Peston on the radio and he watches News at Ten on the TV every single night so he must know what he is talking about.’
So the Father cut down on his meat and bun orders just in case. He also started to open later and close earlier because if there were to be less customers, there would be no need to work such long hours. He took down his advertising signs and no longer stood by the side of the highway selling his Hot Dogs.
And his hot dog sales began to fall immediately. “You’re right my boy, the Father said to his son. We certainly are experiencing a difficult time, I’m so pleased that I listened to you!”
Get in touch if you would like to discuss anything relating to this blog post.
…an ‘only when times are good’ activity?
Regardless of the success and impact that coaching has had on people and organisations over the last few years, companies who are not used to experiencing the many benefits of coaching can still be a little sceptical before hiring a coach. This has been made worse since the advent of the financial crisis leaving those companies that are making good profits, still a little reluctant to invest in their people. One Head of Learning I was speaking with recently told me that although his organisation is making more money now that it was at the start of the crisis, their financial investment in people has declined. He told me that his department has many people who are waiting for essential skills training and executive coaching but his boss just will not sign off the budget. This is particularly frustrating for my contact as he sees the decline in staff morale and, inevitably, an increase in churn.
I guess that as a training provider, I am bound to say that now is exactly the wrong time to cut back on essential staff training, in fact, there is a good case that it should be stepped up. It doesn’t take too much imagination to see that now is the time when companies need their people firing on all 6 cylinders. If people are frustrated with the lack of support they receive then naturally they will hardly be motivated to do the best they can. If people are not continually trained and, or coached, then obviously their performance will begin to drop off. Like I say, I am bound to say this but I absolutely believe it to be true simply because I’ve seen it happen. However, the reader need not take my word for it, he or she can log onto www.hda.co.uk and discover some very interesting facts. Here are just some of them:
- 97% of organisations believe that executive coaching impacts positively on business performance. This has risen 10% since the 2008 HDA Survey.
- Over 70% of organisations surveyed offer coaching to employees at all levels – this has increased by 24% since 2008. Where coaching is offered only to certain levels, they tend to be the senior management team, directors or high potentials.
- A growing number of Line Managers are acting as coaches within organisations.
- Concerning the question of Recession versus cutbacks, HDA claim; ‘A significant proportion [responding organisations] view coaching as more valuable than ever as it is seen as ‘a cost effective means of delivering results’ while only 20% of organisations have cut back on coaching as a result of the down turn.’
A recent survey conducted by The Ladders.co.uk revealed amongst other interesting statistics, that 63% of employees in the UK feel that companies don’t care about them!
Now it may be that the 63% have got it wrong and in fact their employers do care about them but that is not the point. The point is, it doesn’t matter what the survey says, it is what the 63% believe to be true because this will determine their attitude towards their jobs and their employers. This is clearly a distressing statistic and, if true could have devastating implications for their company’s futures.
I meet a lot of people who work for large corporations who have similar negative beliefs about the firms they work for. One client told me only this week that he works such long hours during the week that he has to sleep for many hours at the weekend in order to be refreshed again for Monday morning. This means of course that he has little time with his wife and young children and this in turn is having a negative impact on their relationship. He went on to tell me that if he did not put in this amount of effort at work he would be seen by his boss as uncommitted. Again recently, a friend told me about his daughter who worked for a well known global brand who was expected to be in the office from 8 in the morning till often late into the evening. Apparently her boss, a senior manager, would often call meetings at 9 or 10 p.m. resulting in my friend’s daughter arriving home at after midnight. Again, this was a case of the rule, not the exception.
I don’t know if the Ladders survey has hit on a truth or not but what I do know is, there are companies out there that either knowingly or unknowingly, take unfair advantage of their people. Yet, it doesn’t take the brain of Einstein to figure out that unhappy or dissatisfied staff do not perform anywhere near to their potential. If an individual or team is performing at say 50% of their potential, how much creativity and productivity is being lost? Employee motivation is not rocket science. According to psychologist and motivational experts, there are some pretty simple steps that can be taken in order to keep people satisfied in their work. These are simple things like showing them respect; treating them as individuals, involving them in the business, ensuring that they understand their company’s vision and goals, giving them ownership but most important of all in my opinion, treating them like human beings and not cannon fodder!
My many years experience working with many companies, large and small has taught me that when people are treated fairly, given clear and achievable goals to achieve, treated as valuable members of the team and treated with respect, they perform better than those that are not. I have seen individuals and teams who work long and hard not because they are told to or because they fear for their jobs but because they want to. In fact, one such company I know of will discipline their people for staying too late in the office or for taking work home on a regular basis. They are treated fairly and are encouraged to contribute their thoughts and ideas to the future of the company. As you might imagine, these people are highly motivated and work extremely hard because they respect the fact that they are treated well. They believe that the company they work for care about them and this is repaid a thousand times through their commitment, their loyalty and their productivity.
We live in uncertain times and as the financial crisis deepens, companies are likely to put even more pressure on their people, working them harder and even reducing headcount. These measures, unless handled carefully and sensitively, will cause even more fear and deterioration to employee morale. However, I would suggest that this is a great time for companies to take advantage of the fear and uncertainty out there. It is, in my opinion, a good time for companies to invest more in their people; train them better, support them more and show them that they are actually important to the company’s future. Naturally there may be staff who just do not fit in or are not prepared to do their bit but for the rest, well, they need looking after. Behaviour begets behaviour; treat people well and they will return will treat their company and, more importantly, the company’s customers well.
Get in touch if you would like to discuss anything relating to this blog post.